David Brooks: Reliable Source breaks the rules!

THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2012

Structuralist movin’ on up: Just for today, we’ll tip our cap to the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column. This is precisely the type of reporting the guild once refused to perform:
Surreal estate: David Brooks moves from Bethesda to Cleveland Park

Buyer: David Brooks
Price: $3.95 million

Details: The New York Times op-ed columnist and wife Sarah are trading up—from their longtime home near Bethesda’s Burning Tree Club to a century-old (exquisitely renovated) five bedroom, four-and-a-half bath house in Cleveland Park. It includes a two-car garage, iron and stone fence, generous-sized porch and balcony, and what appear to be vast spaces for entertaining. The timing seems to have been right: After only a few days on the market, their old place (which also boasts five bedrooms) is under contract for $1.6 million.
At one time, we thought the public should know about the wealth of the “journalists” they see on TV. We thought this might put doubts in voters’ minds about this cohort’s work.

We can’t remember why we thought that—and it was only a few years ago. By now, it’s clear that the emerging stars of the emerging liberal world will never help people question this syndrome—that they’re in the game for the corporate cash, like those who came before.

For our money, the most amusing press story of the past dozen years involved the way the NBC News elite huddled with their corporate owner, Jack Welch, out on Nantucket Island. David Brooks isn’t in their class yet! Chris Matthews bought his summer home out there—and he paid $4.4 million, in 2004!

Under Welch, NBC News became a highly political news operation. But NBC and its cable channels provided a route to career success, and the hacks and fixers of the career journo class refused to discuss this amusing colony. It’s OK to discuss the corruption of Fox under its billionaire owner, Murdoch. It was forbidden to talk about Tim and Chris and all the rest huddled with their corporate patron out on that glitzy island.

How did David Brooks garner the cash? The salaries of the mainstream press corps are a tightly-held secret. The press corps does not report on the press. “Lifestyles of the rich and famous” stops at the press corps’ door.

We can no longer imagine a world where the public draws a warning from this type of information. The stars you see on Our Own Liberal Channel are stuffing their pockets with big fat cash too. And we liberals have plainly cast our vote. We can’t see a problem with this.

They tell us we're the very good people. We like them when they do it.

Matthews has flipped his story-lines now—and the bright young stars are movin’ on up. If you think this isn’t how this world works, we have a bridge to the Island of the Danged we might be willing to sell you.


  1. FYI, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes detailed information about average earnings by profession broken down by geographic area.

    See http://www.bls.gov/data/#wages and pull up the National Compensation Survey. The profession you want to look at is "Reporters and correspondents"

  2. It nevertheless makes a huge difference in my mind whether the millionaire journalist is objecting to progressive taxes and trashing liberal and progressive ideas, or is promoting progressive policies (including higher taxes on themselves). It's more important (finally) to have some arguing for progressive solutions with national media platforms than to try to get them kicked them out because they flunk a purity test.

    At what time in history did journalists ever tell on those in their profession, or attack a now-compliant host giving them a job and a platform (e.g., Chris Matthews) for a decade-old (or even 3-year-old) outrage? It goes with the territory.

    That doesn't mean the outrage shouldn't be identified when or after it occurs, even repeatedly until it gains traction, but the vitriolic ad hominems are not justified and are counter-productive. First rule of teaching effectiveness: attack the behavior, not the person.

  3. I agree that mentioning David Brook's healthy bank account is a good idea, and fair game. When I read about this (somewhere else) I kind of assumed Brooks was from a wealthy family, and it's possible all that dough has not come from the New York Times. We should note that the still fairly recent phenomenon of Movie salaries for the people who bring us the news is did not exactly go unnoticed.
    The once semi credible "60 Minutes" probably ushered in the new "big money in "News"" era. When national embarrassment Clarence Thomas, the first Supreme Court Justice to take a Million Dollar Book Deal, wanted to sell his book, the millionaire "reporters" of 60 Minutes were happy to oblige, and there was nary a tough question to be found.
    One fears that gestures like calling out Brooks are not closing the barn door. That barn burned down years ago.

    1. David, I would not only assume from your foolish reply that you ARE a racist, I would offer it to any rational person as irrefutable proof. First, to the sheer stupidity: if Thomas's intellect has been generally recognized by those who disagree with his views, why would this puff piece use the reactionary Professor for the quote? Perhaps some have recognized his "influence" on the Court, even I do that. His influence is lock vote for whatever is the perceived side of right wing or corporate power. Scalia, little more than a hood himself, has called Thomas "a nut."
      We must stop and ask here, David, do you really think you are impressing anyone with this argument? The reader would have had to have overindulged in the films of Long Dong Silver him or herself to fall for what you present. You mention no accomplishments, because they are nil, unless you count lowering the ethical standards of the Court in every way possible. Through naked partisanship (his fire breathing speeches to right wing groups) to lining his pockets (Book Deal, golly, you didn't respond to that part) with the Celebrity of his appointment. Most famously, I guess, was his throwing of the 2000 Election, which no one but the most die hard Republican partisan views as anything but a moment of profound shame.
      Let us retreat for a moment from the Politically Correct cowardice that made his place on the Court possible: he represents a moment of high tech Uncle Tommery that shames any decent Republican (I admit, there are few), and his ethical outrages disgust any true conservative. People like you, white people, used him as a tool to retain their sense of privilege over other blacks. He is a disgrace, but you are a greater one.

    2. if Thomas's intellect has been generally recognized by those who disagree with his views, why would this puff piece use the reactionary Professor for the quote?

      If you read the piece, you'll see Thomas praised by Akhil Reed Amar, a professor at Yale Law School, who apparently is a liberal, based on the context. Furthermore, the writer himself, Jeffrey Toobin is a liberal Supreme Court watcher, so his praise illustrates Thomas being lauded by the other side.

      I didn't respond to Thomas's book, because I don't know what problem is being alleged. It's a fascinating autobiography. Anyone truly interested in the welfare of poor blacks in this coutry ought to read it, particularly Thomas's relationship with his grandfather. When I tried to interest my liberal wife and liberal best friend in the book, they shunned it. Apparently liberalism required that they do nothing that might help them understand Thomas as a human being. I'll recommend the book to you, too, Greg.

      BTW your accusation of Uncle Tomism is backwards. It's the black liberals, who support the Democratic Party in ways that hurt blacks, who are closer to Uncle Toms. E.g., the opposition to school choice, which consigns millions of black children to terrible inner city schools.

  4. should be "movie star salaries"...

  5. The Real AnonymousMay 10, 2012 at 6:19 PM

    Obama=Maddox, Conner and Wallace
    Dowd and Collins=The biggest threat to the republic since it was established.

    How silly and consequently irrelevant Mr. Somerby has become.

    "It’s OK to discuss the corruption of Fox under its billionaire owner, Murdoch. It was forbidden to talk about Tim and Chris and all the rest huddled with their corporate patron out on that glitzy island."

    Unless Mr. Somerby shows that MSNBC under Welch is guilty of what newscorps is under Murdoch we can write this off as just another false equivalency.

    Around the same time Matthews was buying his vacation place Hannity was buying an $8.5 million mansion on Centre Island, the same location of one of Murdoch's many mansions:

    "News Corporation chief executive Rupert Murdoch may have a new neighbor to carpool to work with. The house that conservative talk show host and Murdoch employee Sean Hannity was trying to buy has officially closed, real estate sources says. The 16-room mansion on Centre Island closed Wednesday. Hannity paid $8.5 million."


    Don't bother to search the incomparable archives of this site for that information. In Mr. Somerby's world it doesn't exist even though its a better example for Mr. Somerby's argument than comparing the way Welch ran MSNBC to the way Murdoch and Ailes run Fox.

    1. Unless MSNBC is as bad as FOX, you shouldn't criticize MSNBC.

  6. Believe you me, the people who are out there doing actual news gathering aren't getting paid Brooks- or Hannity-like salaries. Pundits and television personalities are to journalists what CEOs are to factory workers: profiteers off other people's labor who somehow get paid 350 times more for doing about 1% as much work.

  7. blaming the faults of the media on same guy, welch, over and over is classic scapegoating . . . like as though there is not blame to be shared by the leaders of the other networks, etc. . . . not to mention that welch has been retired for eleven years now. . . . not to mention he was the ceo of one of the biggest companies in the world of which nbc and msnbc were a relatively small part. . . . not to mention that general electric wasnt a media company, unlike the other networks.

    but thank god for small favors i guess . . . somerby did at least bring up murdoch today. however, the overall message from his concentration on welch is tacitly that the other media company leaders (abc,cbs etc.) deserve little to no blame. and i presume a lot of people will buy it because they want to, because welch had ancestors who came from a little island sticking out into the atlantic who were also catholic.

    i dont blame you for keeping order by patriotically hating on americans whose heritage is irish-catholic, but please realize that this pleasing tale of somerbys lets off the hook a lot of people who share blame for cheer-leading america into unnecessary wars and cowing down generally to gop administrations.

    somerby talks a lot about the media having a narrative but he himself has a narrative as well...

    but this isnt a football game or tv show. just because americans who have irish-catholic heritage lose, does not mean you will win necessarily . . . especially in the long run due in large part to a lack of standup from the new left to the rise of the reactionary right.

    the new or cultural 'left' took over from the true economic-fairness-based left starting in the seventies, taking away much of the power of the mainly northern big city bosses (including a fair share of americans with an irish catholic heritage) to control the presidential conventions and platforms and their ability to give us candidates like fdr, truman and jfk, in favor of the likes of mcgovern, mondale and dukakis.

    imo the new 'left' are a mix of unwitting as well as conscious agents of the right. and imo somerby is here to protect them (and thereby also protect the formal right), from the possible rise of an old left fighting spirit as evidenced by msnbc and the new york times at times. (i know they are cultural left oriented but you have to start somewhere in the non-radio, non-internet media).

    1. if you want to get all the details on how the democratic party shifted from true left to idiosyncratic see "why the democrats are blue", by mark stricherz. i dont agree with everything in it, but the level of detail on the power shift, how they did it, is very worth while although pretty dry.

  8. Criticizing MSNBC is anti-Irish Catholic.